Nov. 7—Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team:
Women's basketball got it right Monday with three top 25 matchups on the opening day of the 2023-24 season. South Carolina blew out Notre Dame in Paris with MiLaysia Fulwiley delivering what might be the highlight play of the season (check out the video). Then Colorado upset LSU and USC got a 32-point effort from freshman JuJu Watkins to beat Ohio State.
Good teams playing other good teams. A novel concept.
But after seeing the results from the men's side Monday night, it became clear why no one (a generalization, but not an unfair one) was interested in scheduling tough. Because those games were apparently difficult enough.
Illinois needed most of the first half to get going against Eastern Illinois, but at least the Illini won. James Madison knocked off No. 4 Michigan State at the Breslin Center. Princeton won the battle for New Jersey with a neutral site win against Rutgers. And Ohio State had to fend off three-point happy Oakland for a close win.
There were some blowouts, of course. Purdue clobbered Samford. Wisconsin put up 105 points on Arkansas State. Nebraska handled its business against Lindenwood.
But it was a mostly underwhelming slate of games. Both in the Big Ten and nationally where the best games were USC-Kansas State (the Trojans are legit), Oregon-Georgia (several degrees less interesting than if the football teams matched up) and Iona-Charleston (great mid-major matchup). Not a ton of games to start the season, though, that probably captured the attention of the casual fans.